Claire Monk

Professor of Film & Film Culture, De Montfort University

Voted for

Cléo from 5 to 71962Agnès Varda
The Servant1963Joseph Losey
Daisies1966Věra Chytilová
Touki Bouki1973Djibril Diop Mambéty
Maeve1981Pat Murphy, John Davies
Maurice1987James Ivory
Camp de Thiaroye1988Thierno Faty Sow, Ousmane Sembène
Exotica1994Atom Egoyan
La Ville est Tranquille / The Town is Quiet2000Robert Guédiguian
The Power of the Dog2021Jane Campion


As many contributors to past polls have noted, the notion – and task – of identifying ‘The 10 Greatest Films of All Time’ are essentially absurd, painful and impossible. The task has become more problematic with each passing decade: the field of potentially ‘great’ films perpetually multiplies, but in tandem with the escalating curse of film-historical amnesia, particularly but not exclusively around ‘marginal’ and marginalised films, filmmakers, countries, cultures and identities. The implicit pressures – towards consensus, auteurism and rubber-stamping rather than questioning established canons – have, of course, been much discussed. My own passion for film is powered much more by personal enthusiasms, a revisionist and non-hierarchical sensibility, and de-centred (feminist, queer, independent) tastes. My selections reflect this, although I am braced that I may be the sole voter for some of my film choices (which I’ve listed chronologically).

My choices reflect personal taste more than pretensions towards a proposed alternative/feminist/decolonial pantheon, but are nonetheless feminist, anti-colonial, anti-racist, pro-liberation choices. They include the work of four female directors (three indisputably great, the fourth – Pat Murphy – largely forgotten), and the two great black directors of sub-Saharan Africa, Sembene and Mambéty (my favourite: I would happily have listed all of his films, including the sublime early and late mini-features Badou Boy and Le Franc as well as Hyenas / Hyènes), alongside Losey’s The Servant and Ivory’s groundbreaking and cinematically timeless gay masterpiece Maurice (whose chances of recognition in the poll may, I hope, have improved slightly since 2012). Egoyan’s Exotica and Campion’s The Power of the Dog are here, in part, as synecdoches for their directors’ wider oeuvres: Exotica as, for me, perhaps Egoyan’s peak achievement (a very tough choice) whose enigmas require and reward repeated viewing; Campion’s masterly The Power of the Dog (my only post-2000 choice) because I believe it will be a future classic in part for the same reason. I found it imperative to include Campion, and failed to persuade myself that the earlier ‘obvious’ choices (centrally, The Piano) were greater works than The Power of the Dog. Guédiguian’s La ville est tranquille, from 2000, is here because of its epic reach and enduring, even increased, social and political urgency in 2022.

The numerous directors and films I would have included if not restricted to 10 films include Len Lye (Free Radicals), Kiarostami (an impossible choice between Close-up and Ten), Claire Denis (Beau Travail), Céline Sciamma (an impossible choice between Petite Maman and Portrait of a Lady on Fire), Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, which I continue to insist upon over the more ‘obvious’ choices), Steve McQueen’s Small Axe (as an entirety), Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man!, John Schlesinger’s Sunday Bloody Sunday, Robin Campillo’s BPM / Beats per Minute, and (in a nod to established canons) Carol Reed’s The Third Man.